Three years ago, Mutiganda wa Nkunda (as he prefers to be called) juggled critiquing films for Inyarwanda.com, a local news and entertainment website, and making his own films.
“In summer last year, I dropped the journalism jersey to pursue only filmmaking. This is because both jobs require full passion and devotion. So I chose making films over talking about them, I dropped journalism to focus only on filmmaking and I’ll never retreat,” explains the fast-rising filmmaker, who is the scriptwriter for the popular episodic TV series, ‘City Maid’, and its predecessor, ‘Seburikoko’.
Going by what he has achieved in the last two years, and the number of film projects currently on his hands, one can’t fault the filmmaker for this bold career move.
‘Seburikoko’ is now two years and counting, having started airing on the national broadcaster, Rwanda Television in March 2015.
From day one, Mutiganda has been writing the script for the comic series. Two years on, he has written over 180 episodes of fifteen minutes each.
‘Seburikoko’ was his second go at screenwriting, having previously developed the script for Inshuti (Friends), another series that aired on TV 10 between 2014 and 2015.
He explains the initial challenges in writing the script.
“The show was longer than ‘Friends’, and with different settings as ‘Friends’ was shot in an urban setting while ‘Seburikoko’ is in the countryside: the life there is very complicated to approach and depict realistically. Some people like to ask me, how do you do it, writing about the daily life of village people, do you live there? Do you visit there every time you want to write? But I tell them that it all is inspiration, and my own experience with family, surroundings, and people in general. Rwanda as a country is a small land with one culture. When you are in Kigali, to know how Muhanga people live is not an issue as in Kigali itself we have many village areas.”
Nevertheless, he is enchanted by the huge positive feedback.
“As a writer of the show I’m excited by how Rwandans have shown love for it so far. It’s a story which is increasingly resonating with the Rwandan society as a whole and every day is becoming new in the eyes of the audience. It depicts the lives of people living in the village, but for me, it touches Rwandan society as a whole,” he explains.
Following the relative success of the series, Inyarwanda.com, the owners of the series sought to quench the public’s thirst for more locally produced TV content. The result is the massively popular series, ‘City Maid’ that is currently a hit on Rwanda Television, and of which Mutiganda is the director.
City Maid has been airing since mid last year, and is the story of Nikuze, a village woman who flees her abusive husband to seek a new beginning in the city.
However, upon her arrival; her past is intertwined with the present and her future becomes uncertain. It is a realistic story of the struggle of a woman with society and life in general.
Interestingly, Mutiganda started out as a script advisor, and it was only during Season 2 last year that he became its director. Currently the series is in its third season.
Touted as the best locally produced TV series on local airwaves to date, the show’s popularity has grown exponentially among local audiences.
And much of the acclaim is going to the show’s lead actress Nikuze, whose story many identify with.
“Some people ask me how I do it: directing a TV series while I’m penning the other in parallel! Yes, I manage. When I have to write Seburikoko, I wake up early before going on the set of City Maid or in days of off shooting,” he says.
Presently, he’s filming ‘City Maid’ and he has to be up at 4:30am to get ready for a long day of shooting at varied city locations.
For each episode, he has to write about 15 pages.
“Writing begins with sitting down with the show creator and we discuss about the season’s premise with large lines of what will happen to our characters in the whole season. And as a writer, I sit down and breakdown the large lines into the episodic scripts of 15 minutes each, which the audience will watch on TV with all the characters’ actions and dialogues. From breaking down the large format into the scenes and actions, I can say that it takes me one day to write one episode,” he explains.
Away from ‘Seburikoko’ and ‘City Maid’, Mutiganda is currently writing ‘Virunga School’, a high school TV series that airs on Royal TV. He is also in preps for the production of a new short film, as well in post production stages of a feature film, both of which will be out next year.
Yet Mutiganda’s good fortunes do not stop at that.
His four minute experimental short film, La Femme Nue (The Naked Woman) is among the local entries for the 3rd edition of the Mashariki African Film Festival (MAAFF) that kicks off on March 25 in Kigali. He made the film during a workshop on filming arts that was organised by the French Institute in Rwanda last October.
“La Femme Nue is a story about a painting of a naked woman which we found at Uburanga Arts Gallery when we were there to film the exercise films at the end of the workshop.
“My colleagues and I were assigned to make short videos on artists working there; but when I went there, on entering the gallery I was hit by the sensual painting I found hanging on the wall painted by Willy Karekezi. I opted to make a film about it instead. I came up with the idea of how Rwandan society resonates with a woman’s nudity and I developed it from there. I took my colleagues in front of the camera, acting as the gallery visitors, commenting on the picture but with a reflection of what Rwandan culture dictates on the nudity of a woman but without the comments of the picture’s painter. I shot it myself in one afternoon, editing it the following day as I had to finish it as a workshop graduation work,” he explains.
“Mashariki African Film Festival is the first film festival the film is screening, and I’m very elated to hear that the selection committee selected my film. MAAFF is steadily growing with every year’s lineup of fresh films from finest African filmmakers. It’s my honour to join this league of filmmakers whose films will be shown to the Rwandan audience.”
Even with all this success to his name, his parting words are, “I’m still young, upcoming, and my board is still blank.”